by SG Wilson of Earth 349
And what a sight they were, that party of seven, marching through the Vale of Doom as if the evil land were but the fairest springtime meadow. The Kobolds howled, the Demon-Trees bellowed, the Bog of Tears boiled over in rage, but nothing in that vile, despicable place dared to oppose their passage through it. For they were the bravest adventurers in all the golden kingdom of Malodoria, and many a ballad had been composed of their deeds. No song, however, would compare to the one they would sing on this day:
Dane Ironeater was master of sword and conqueror of men/
The darkest creatures he had faced, every battle did he win.
A puckish one-eyed rogue was Kito Daggerlick/
Never an honest workday done, but many an honest pocket picked.
Merryfun the elf’s wit was as sharp as his archer’s eye/
He could not fathom the ways of men, but nobility in them did he spy.
A war axe named Orc-Chopper, Waddle the dwarf did wield/
His manner gruff, his beard quite long and never had he been felled.
The magic book of Bixby Moon was crammed with mighty spells/
He once cast a fireball that rang a giant’s death knell.
Oh Princess Lumia, in your chain-mail bikini/
So cool in arms but warm in heart like every warrior woman should be.
His blood a tainted foul mixture, of orc and human seed/
But Blark the Outcast’s heart was of gold — 'twas love he did so need.
And how is it that they passed through that blighted, disgusting scar of accursed land to arrive intact in the fair kingdom of Malodoria? Each had received a summons from the Mistress Alesteria, Queen of the Lands of Malodoria, Keeper of the Chalice, and Protectress of the Ruby Gauntlet. Her renowned kindness was matched only by her beauty, which blazed brightly like the sun on the banner of Malodoria that hung behind her gold and silver diamond-studded throne. It was this throne that had earned her a fond sobriquet among her subjects and her enemies alike – The Diamond-Studded Queen.
“I am Queen of the Lands of Malodoria, Keeper of the Chalice and Protectress of the Ruby Gauntlet, but some know me as the Diamond-Studded Queen,” she told the fellowship in her great feasthall when they had assembled before her. “You were all summoned for your legendary abilities to rid my kingdom of a scourge that returned after several decades, when it was driven off by my great father, may the God Arnthrok bless his soul.”
“Aye, a great man he was,” bellowed Dane, puffing his formidable armored chest that bore the emblem of a wolf eating iron nails. “Served with him I did in the Goblin-Magi wars, as well in the Battle of Firespout Glen. A braver man of more noble a heart never have I met.”
“Mr. Ironeater, where are thine manners?!” spat Princess Lumia, all fire and anger. “Can you not see the fair lady is speaking to us, and that thou hast interrupted her?” She seemed very cross with Dane, but in her admonishment there was the hint of something more, the seed of attraction, and … of love.
“Er, I am sorry if I wronged thee, fair lady,” muttered Dane, deflated though still proud and resplendent in his magnificent armor. “Please go on.”
The Diamond-Studded Queen smiled. “Far from insulted, I am honored that one as brave as thee would think so highly of my father,” she said. She was about to continue, when she noticed Blark, who looked very sad. “Is something the matter, sir?”
Blark stirred from his moping as if awakening from a dream. He spoke tentatively: “M’lady, you are the fairest of the fair, with your flaxen hair and eyes that glitter like diamonds. But why have you chosen me? I am but a tainted creature! I, who do not deserve to walk beneath the sun!”
The Diamond-Studded Queen addressed Blark sympathetically. “You may be the ugly spawn of a foul union, an impure blight on the purity of this land, but you have something to offer. Each of you has something to offer, is that not right, Mr. Daggerlick?”
Kito Daggerlick, clever rascal that he was, was stuffing a silver candelabra from a nearby table into his magic bag. The guards drew their swords. “Who invited this knave? He’s greedy as a dwarf!” smirked Merryfun. Waddle reached for his axe, but Bixby placed a hand on his tiny shoulder and the dwarf calmed down.
“Oops,” said Kito, smiling charmingly.
“It is all right,” laughed the Diamond-Studded Queen, emitting a musical sound like the song of a siren, the pipes of a satyr. “If it is treasure you seek, gentle burglar —”
Kito cocked a wry eyebrow and listened in earnest, as did they all.
“— then you should not have arrived a week late,” continued the Diamond-Studded Queen. “I summoned you here to rid the land of the dragon Kraco, but it died of natural causes two days ago. We found many treasures in that monster’s cave, including its very progeny, a baby dragon that Kraco left behind. A scroll written in the dragon tongue willed the infant to me, noting that I was a fair and patient queen who could give it a good home. But I don’t know the first thing about raising dragons. Ah well. Here are a few coins for your troubles.”
“Aye, fair friends, easy come, easy go, or so say the elves!” exclaimed Merryfun. “Let us journey instead to Mount Eaglepeak, my home, fabled for its precious metals and great splendor, where many new adventures await us!” As he said this, his hands were on his hips, and on his head was perched a gay jester’s hat with many brightly colored bells.
And they all laughed so very heartily.
It was Blark who stayed behind to raise the child of Kraco. Under his love and guidance, the dragon spawn became a gentle and happy creature, and defender of all the lands of the Diamond-Studded Queen. And the name that Blark chose for this noble being?